Last month Mad About Comedy celebrated 18 years of promoting international stand-up comedy in Indonesia.

Four top international comedian, Alistair Barrie (UK), Michael Harrison (Canada), Melanie Maras (US) and Indonesia’s own Mo Sidik appeared at Mad About Comedy 18th Anniversary event on 26 April. Photo courtesy of Mad About Comedy Jakarta/NOW!JAKARTA

The occasion was marked by an anniversary show on 26 April  which featured four top international headliners, Alistair Barrie (UK), Michael Harrison (Canada), Melanie Maras (US) and Indonesia’s own Mo Sidik, supported by some of Indonesia’s finest up-and-coming English language comedy performers. A sold-out audience enjoyed an evening of laughs and celebrations which went on into the small hours of the morning, and we would like to thank all who helped us make the event such a wonderful success.

In the early years we were lucky enough to catch some of today’s comedy superstars on their way up the ladder to fame and fortune, and in more recent years we have presented some of the most established and recognised performers in international stand-up comedy today. The headliner for our first ever show in April 2001 was Irishman Jason Byrne, who has since become one of the UK’s biggest selling acts of all time. We also had the great fortune to catch UK comedy legend Ross Noble on his way to the top. Some of the established big names who have graced the stage in Indonesia are Bill Bailey, Jim Jefferies and Emo Philips. These are among a total of more than 300 professional comedians who have performed for us over the years. Not bad for a tiny little comedy club in the corner of Southeast Asia!

The Mad About Comedy story started in November 2000 during the Jakarta Cricket Club annual dinner. The keynote speaker for the event was the legendary New Zealand cricketer Sir Richard Hadlee, whose speech, everyone agreed, was hilarious. Discussion followed about how we could all do with more evenings like that, and over the next few days the idea to bring professional comedians to Jakarta was born. After a lot of phone calls and emails and six months of preparation, we were able to hire a young Jason Byrne for the first show, with Englishman Jack Russell in support, and we also managed to find some friends willing to sponsor the shows and help us bear some of the cost. In the months and years that followed that first show we built a following of comedy lovers and a reputation among comedians all over the world as a fun place to do shows. This culminated in us being asked by Live Nation Asia to organise our biggest shows ever with global comedy super star Jim Jefferies. The result was two sold-out shows in January this year, one in Jakarta and one in Bali. There have been many hurdles along the way, and we have missed a few shows due to circumstances beyond our control, but for the most part we have managed to present shows every month since April 2001.

In those days there was no such thing as “stand-up comedy” in Indonesia. There were other forms of comedy of course, but buying a ticket to sit and listen to someone on stage telling jokes just simply was not a “thing”. Fortunately, things have changed and there is currently a thriving local comedy scene, which means we can now feature English speaking Indonesian comedians at every show. This also means that, in partnership with top Indonesian comedian Mo Sidik, we will be opening Indonesia’s first full-time, purpose-built, bi-lingual comedy club in June of this year. Watch this space for details!

Over the years there has been a lot of happiness and laughter, but there has been some sadness as well. In terms of happiness, we are proud to say we can claim three Mad About Comedy babies, born to Australian comedian David Lennie and his wife who met while he was in Jakarta to perform for us. In terms of sadness, Jack Russell (real name John Cowley), who opened for Jason Byrne in our first ever show in April 2001, unfortunately passed away in September of 2018 aged only 53. He was the first stand-up comedian ever to perform anywhere in Indonesia. This article is dedicated to him.